One of my favorite things in the world is getting lost. If I’ve got some time on my hands, Ruby and I will go get lost in the woods together. We often go to Swope Park where you can find a never-ending entanglement of trails that cut deep into the woods. We’ll find a path we’ve never taken and just walk. Some days we run (today was not one of those days). Usually, the path always leads back to where we began. Sometimes it takes a little longer, depending on the day and route we take, but we always find our way home.
After a little snow plus the holidays, I’ve been feeling a little extra stir crazy. Winter makes me restless. The cold, the layers of clothing, the hibernation…it’s kinda fun and cozy through the holidays. Believe me, I am the first to wear my Christmas pjs and sequin santa hat out to the grocery store the entire week up to Christmas Day. And I’m all about any holiday that incorporates fire works, staying up until midnight making lots of noise and kissing. I am the queen of festive…Until new years day. Come January 1st, I’m over that shit. After kissing my sweetie, I look around and suddenly every friend I made in the bar that night is just another annoying drunk person and I’m ready to go home.
The last few months of winter are always a waiting game. After a little bit of snow, I have cabin fever. I can’t complain, it shot up to 65 degrees on Christmas day. The thing is, now all that snow has melted and atop all my sunny daydreams of woodsy adventures there exists a thick layer of mud. The mild weather is just taunting if I can’t enjoy it. So today, I decided to say fuck it. I could no longer stand looking outside at a beautiful day without going out to explore it. So we decided to pretend it’s spring and set out.
About halfway through my 2 1/2 hour trek, I became annoyed with the mud. Annoyance quickly turned into frustration. Then anger started to set in. I stopped a few times to kick some off, but my efforts were futile. Just a few steps later, the mud was back with a vengeance. This was war.
“Why the fuck did I decide to go hiking today? I knew the trails would be muddy. UGH fuck this mud. Why did I wear my brand new running shoes? I can’t run in this shit, duh. I couldn’t wait even a month to fuck them up? I wanna ruuunnnn…I’ll totally fall on my ass if i do. I should have worn hiking boots. I don’t even have hiking boots. Why don’t I have hiking boots? I should. That shit’s expensive. God even my pants are muddy. I was gonna wear these to teach. Now I have to do laundry. I’m gonna have to give Ruby a bath when I get home. And clean my shoes. And my car…”
I should explain, I kind of have an anger problem. It’s one of those big problems. Yoga helps. Over time (and with LOTS of practice), I have learned to recognize when I start becoming reactive. When that frustration starts to bubble over and starts to become anger, I pause. No, really…like how people joke. I literally have to stop what I’m doing, close my eyes and count my breaths.
Huge breath…hold full…exhale and let that shit go.
Ok. Didn’t lash out. Good.
Another deep breath…hold full…let it go.
…feeling like I may have overreacted.
Another deep breath…hold full…aaaah
and pretty soon my reaction becomes, “Ok I’m cool. I aint got time for that shit anyway.”
And then I can start to rethink things.
After this process, I ask myself some questions.
Why the hell did you really get so angry about the fucking mud on your shoes anyway? I mean really?
With a clear head I began to think to myself about how as a kid, I use to LOVE the mud. I was less interested in Disney princesses, and more concerned about building a moat around the parameter of my house with a silver spoon. What happened to that? Why was something simple from the earth that once brought me so much joy now a source of so much frustration?
I opted to no longer give a shit about the mud.
It’s funny what happens when you decide to stop giving a shit. You know what happens? When you stop caring about something, it loses it’s power. Sometimes you forget to care and you accidentally let important things slip away. Sometimes, you make the very distinct choice to stop caring. You stop caring about what others think of you. You stop feeling like you need to perform for others or be this ideal version of yourself. You quit smoking. You stop drinking. You quit killing yourself with your workout. You notice “my knee hurts”, and stop doing things to make your knee hurt. You stop starving yourself. You stop giving extraneous things and thoughts power. And what do you find?
What happens once you stop nurturing negative thoughts and creating an environment for them to thrive? You find that your unhealthy thought patterns no longer control you. You begin the process of deprograming. It can start with one mindful breath. Maybe within that single moment of pause, that little bit of space, you can begin to replace negativity with positivity. Replace control and obsession about an outcome with self compassion. Replace anxiety with more self understanding. Replace anger with self love. Notice: it always starts with the self. Self is the root. You can not save a dying plant by plucking off dead foliage, you must address the root.
So after a few more breaths, I resolved to be ok with the mud. The mud was never the problem in the first place. My frustration was deeper than the mud on many levels. The mud was some trivial shit that I don’t have the time to let get me angry. Don’t get me wrong, it’s ok to get angry. But getting angry about the mud was a waste of energy. The initial spark lead me to a place where I allowed myself to feel some other more important things that I actually needed to spend some brainpower on. So that was good. A win.
In short: don’t let the mud get you down. In the wake of a shit year full of death, illness and sorrow, know that there will always be mud. The daily stuff that we trudge through will always be there. Life is messy, that’s ok. How can you use your energy more efficiently this year? You can start by not letting the trivial shit get you down. Thank the mud for being there and reminding you how blessed you are to have nike shoes on your feet walking with your best friend amongst glorious rock formations on a mild winter’s day. You can’t control the mud, but you can control your attitude about the mud. Use all that extra energy and personal power to go out and make a real difference where you need to. March into a new year without feeling bound to a resolution based off of impossible expectations. Maybe this year, we focus less on perfection. Maybe we can do a little less to find a little more truth. Maybe when we feel overwhelmed we can stop dead in our tracks and take a huge gulp of air…and just see what happens.